Carl Hiaasen talks Bad Monkey and gator trouble with Andrew Pyper

Our 39th season of weekly readings ended with lots of laughs. At Thursday night’s well-attended event, acclaimed author and columnist Carl Hiaasen was interviewed by bestselling novelist Andrew Pyper. Hiaasen read from and discussed his latest novel, Bad Monkey, and regaled the audience with hilarious stories of his golfing misadventures in Miami, which happened to involve some feisty alligators.  See below for images from the event.

September marks the start of the 40th season of our weekly readings! We’ll be kicking things off with Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Joseph Boyden. Stay tuned this summer for further information and other exciting event updates.

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An Evening with Andrew Pyper

Last night’s book launch for Andrew Pyper’s latest thriller, The Demonologist, proved to be entertaining, intriguing and even a little creepy. The room at the Gladstone Hotel was packed with Pyper’s family, friends and fans. After a short reading Pyper shared stories about the writing process, his beliefs in the paranormal and what makes a good scary novel. Interviewed by the Globe and Mail‘s Russell Smith, the audience hung on every word from the bestselling author. Below are a few photos from the event. Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada who co-presented the event. Find out more about Andrew Pyper here.

Andrew Pyper reading from The Demonologist (c) readings.org

Andrew Pyper reads from The Demonologist (c) readings.org

Andrew Pyper interviewed by Russell Smith (c) readings.org

Andrew Pyper interviewed by Russell Smith (c) readings.org

Five Questions with… Andrew Pyper

Pyper, AndrewAndrew Pyper will share his new book, The Demonologist, at the Gladstone Hotel on March 4. He took a few minutes to tell us about demons, Venice and his childhood tales.

IFOA: Your latest book has been described as scary, terrifying and thrilling. What scares, terrifies and thrills you?

Pyper: I’m terrified by anything that might harm those closest to me, my children, specifically. I’m thrilled by doing what I do for a living: making up stories that surprise myself. And I’m still a little scared of the dark.

IFOA: Why did you decide to set The Demonologist in Italy?

Pyper: The section of the novel set in Venice had to be set in Venice for a number of reasons. First, without giving too much away, the canals and water were necessary to the staging of an important scene. Second, Venice’s beauty and art—as well as its history of corruption and violence—was precisely the thematic marriage the book required. Finally, Venice has a long relationship with the demonic. The devil literally made me do it.

IFOA: Did you write as a child, and if so, what did you write?

Pyper: I’ve written stories for as long as I’ve been able to spell. Back then, I favoured the action-packed, the suspenseful, the shocker ending. Not much has changed really.

IFOA: Tell us about one book you read that changed your life.

Pyper: Every book has left its mark, even the bad ones (especially the bad ones?). But likely the most influential book to my own writing was Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. It’s a literary ghost story where the reader is never quite sure if the ghosts are “real” or whether the narrator is unreliable to the point of psychosis. I loved walking that razor’s edge of undecidability, the uncertainty of perspective. It’s also deeply unsettling and ambiguous and nightmare-making—effects I like to have a go at pulling off.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: I always forget to…

Pyper: …get milk on the way home.

Andrew Pyper will read from The Demonologist at the the Gladstone Hotel on March 4, followed by an interview with the Globe and Mail‘s Russell Smith.

The Future of the Novel: story is here to stay

By Vikki VanSickle

Saturday’s round table discussion, Zombies, Witches, Killers and Cowboys: Visions of the Future of the Novel, featured a group of authors from various genres with a wonderful natural chemistry. The scope of the discussion was large, touching on themes such as genre, love, the imagination and the writing process. The audience was very welcoming—and obviously full of Jo Nesbø fans.

Moderator Andrew Pyper kept the tone of the discussion light and fun. At one point Nesbø described storytelling as inviting people to your house; if they like it, they will come again. The event very much felt like we had been invited into a cozy collective living room. The discussion included a number of personal anecdotes and I’m sure if given the opportunity the audience would have stayed all afternoon to hear these mix of authors talk.

Andrew Pyper, Deborah Harkness, Alen Mattich, Jo Nesbø and Corey Redekop at IFOA 2012 © readings.org

The question of genre and categorization was one of the more interesting and heated discussions. Genre writers often feel sidelined or undermined by the literati. According to Nesbø, crime fiction is respected and prestigious in Scandinavia, but this is not the case in North America or England, causing Pyper to surmise what a M.G. Vassanji or Anne Michaels crime novel would look like, to much laughter from the audience.

Redekop brought up the case of Margaret Atwood, who made her mark as a literary writer and poet before diving into genre fictions such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood. Redekop wondered if she had written these novels first, would she be considered “merely” a science fiction writer? Atwood herself refers to these novels as “speculative fiction,” which many sci-fi writers find evasive and suggest that in using this term Atwood herself is aware of (and avoiding) the stigma of genre writing.

Deborah Harkness and Alen Mattich talked about the constraints of genre. Harkness referred to genre as a weapon, used by critics and literary award committees to demean so-called genre writers and exclude them from the literary elite. She also talked about genre policing, in which readers and critics are quick to exclude titles based on an arbitrary set of rules or perceived notions about genres.

Harkness is a historian and a professor and talked about the snobbery of her own colleagues, who assumed she would write her fiction (which features witches and vampires) under a pseudonym. Mattich agreed that in North American and British literary circles there is some derision of genre fiction, but he felt that the constraints of genre fiction benefit the writer. With no constraints, Mattich believes it would be harder to succeed. The framework provided by these categories, as arbitrary as they may be, allows the author a framework to push against or an opportunity to test the boundaries and perhaps come up with something fresh and new.

There was some discussion as to why we categorize. Harkness believes the categorizations exist only for the reader, and Redekop confessed that as a librarian, categories are are a useful tool when readers are seeking something to read.

Nesbø pointed out that genre is all about expectation. When a reader picks up a crime novel or a paranormal romance, they expect certain conventions. Like Mattich, he felt that these expectations make it easier to frame a story. So what of the cross-over novel, that holy grail sought by publishers, which seems to defy genre or categorization? The panel agreed that to write for the masses, or seek something as elusive as the cross-over novel, would endanger the story. As Nesbo says, don’t go to the people, invite them to come to you.

As for the future of the novel? The group steered away from discussion of format (re: e-books) and instead focused on content and what readers want. The panelists all agreed that story is here to stay. As Mattich says, people don’t like random events or information. We like a story to explain things.

Redekop took this one step further, suggesting that we are genetically predisposed to create stories in order to understand the world around us. Nesbø suggested that some of the most interesting writing is not in the novel, but in other formats, pointing to cable TV and shows such as Mad Men. He believes that in the future readers will want to be challenged, and that writers of all forms and genres should be ready for a world of intelligent readers.

This event was part of the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference, in partnership with the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the British Council.

Follow VanSickle on her blog, pipedreaming, or on Twitter @vikkivansickle.